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Bone Cancers and Sarcomas

For expert bone cancer or sarcoma treatment, including surgery, innovative precision medicine and access to clinical trials, turn to Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. Our compassionate staff provides nationally recognized medical treatment and cancer support services.

Bone Cancers and Sarcomas: Why Choose Vanderbilt-Ingram?

At Vanderbilt-Ingram, you will find:

  • Focused expertise: The Vanderbilt Sarcoma Treatment Center is focused on one thing only: Treating people with bone cancer and sarcomas. We see more than 300 new patients each year. We find the right treatment solution for each patient and continue to improve our care through research and innovation. Often, patients seek us for a second opinion on their diagnosis or treatment plan.
  • Highly qualified experts: Our doctors are leaders in their fields who choose to work at Vanderbilt-Ingram because of our research and advanced clinical work. Our patients receive unparalleled care and skill from experts who are passionate about what they do. 
  • Collaborative, patient-centered care: Your team might include surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists and orthopedic oncologists. These specialists work together to confirm a diagnosis and, with your input, decide on the most appropriate treatment plan.
  • Tumor boards: At our regular tumor boards (cancer care meetings), our bone cancer and sarcoma experts discuss complex cases individually. Together, some of the nation’s leading cancer experts across medical disciplines collaborate on choosing a treatment plan.
  • Robust clinical trial program: We are continually searching for new and more effective ways to treat bone cancers and sarcomas. Because we are a large research center, our patients can participate in innovative clinical trials to access new approaches under investigation.

Bone Cancer and Sarcomas: Conditions We Treat

Tumors that originate in the bone and are not blood cancers are called bone cancer.

  • Benign (noncancerous) bone cancers may press against the bone tissue and cause pain and other symptoms, but they will not spread to other organs or destroy the bone tissue.
  • Cancerous (malignant) bone cancers may spread and can destroy the bone tissue.
  • Metastatic cancer spreads to the bone from another area.
  • Sarcomas are cancers that form in the soft tissues of the body, such as muscles, nerves and tissue around the joints. Sarcomas tend to affect children and teens more than adults.

Cancer that begins in the bones is rare and requires the expertise of an experienced cancer team. There are several types of primary bone cancer:

  • Osteosarcoma: This is the most common form of primary bone cancer, starting in bone cells. It affects adults but most often young people between the ages of 10 and 30.
  • Chrondrosarcoma: The second most common type of primary bone cancer, this cancer originates in cartilage cells.
  • Ewing sarcoma: This cancer tends to affect children, teens and young adults the most. It rarely impacts older people. This cancer can start in other organs but usually in the bone itself.
  • Malignant fibrous histiocytoma of the bone: A rare cancer affecting mostly older adults, it often begins in the soft connective tissue such as tendons, ligaments and fat, rather than the bones.

Bone Cancer and Sarcoma Diagnosis

If you are experiencing unexplained pain in a limb, see your primary caregiver or an orthopedist. Your doctor will most likely perform a physical exam and ask you about your symptoms. Be sure to share any symptoms, no matter how minor they seem, to help your doctor make a diagnosis.

Your doctor may order one or more tests to confirm a diagnosis or provide you with a second opinion.

  • Imaging scan: A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) scan or X-ray provides detailed pictures of your bones.
  • Biopsy: We remove a small amount of tissue from the affected area to analyze it and confirm a diagnosis. Before a biopsy, we will give you anesthesia so you won’t feel any pain.

Bone Cancer and Sarcoma Treatment: Our Approach

Once we confirm a diagnosis, we will develop a treatment plan that may include:

  • Surgery: A surgical procedure is often the primary treatment for bone cancers and sarcomas. Our surgeons are skilled at removing even the most complex tumors, leading to excellent results for our patients. 
  • Chemotherapy: Your doctor may recommend strong medication to shrink or destroy the cancer. We offer chemotherapy services at multiple infusion centers, so you can get care at the location that’s closest to you.
  • Radiation: We may use radiation either before or after another treatment method to shrink the tumor and increase the success of that treatment. Radiation targets high-energy rays at the tumor. 
  • Precision medicine: Certain cancer-causing genes respond well to specific medications. We use precision medicine to determine if you have those particular genes. Your doctor might recommend testing to determine if this is the right treatment for you. 
  • Clinical trials: Sometimes the best option is one that is still being tested. You may be eligible to participate in a trial when other treatment options aren’t appropriate for you. As a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, Vanderbilt-Ingram is nationally recognized for its clinical trial program. 

Post-Treatment Support at Vanderbilt-Ingram

Rarely, bone cancer requires amputation of all or part of a limb. Our team has exceptional expertise in limb-sparing surgery. If we need to remove a bone, we offer the full spectrum of support and services to help you live well with a prosthesis or other reconstruction. We provide:

  • Prosthesis: This is an artificial limb that we attach to the remaining bone. We design the prosthesis to give you maximum function of your limb.
  • Allograft bone: For this reconstruction, we use a plate, screw or rod.

Our team will help you through the process with support services and caring staff, such as social workers, psychologists and physical therapists. 

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